We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Weird driving quirks may be protective

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, March 30, 2012

Mr. Prokop lives in the town of Mettmenstetten, 25 km south of Zurich. Apparently the Swiss Technical Inspection Authority had no problem with a car that had a fireplace instead of a passenger seat. Photograph by: Arnd Wiegmann, Reuters

I am the first to admit my own seemingly odd driving habits.

For instance, I will never ride in the back seat of a two-door vehicle. The chance of being trapped inside without a door to open is just too much for me to fathom. There have been far too many crashes where passengers have died because they did not have an easy escape route. Furthermore, it is difficult for rescuers to get to an injured person when there is no easy access to the back seat. Waiting for the jaws of life has never been a viable option for me.

If I do not get a seatbelt, I do not ride. For this reason, I do not take certain modes of public transportation or any other form of unprotected people movers. I drive or I fly. I have never understood why buses, trains and SkyTrain and any other such mass transit leave riders unprotected. (When I ride a bike, I usually stick to the trails.) The fact that some school buses do not come equipped with seatbelts defies logic.

I always back into a parking space, or park in a drive-through spot. Virtually every area of our country has the highest number of crashes reported in parking lots. I will parallel park rather than get my car doors dented by the inconsiderate driver or passenger who happens to be beside my vehicle. I often take a parking space far from the store, office or event that I am attending. This will reduce the chances of a hit to my vehicle and at the same time leave parking spaces available for the less ambulatory. I try to park in a well-lit open area for security reasons.

My vehicles are always equipped with convex side view mirrors. They allow me to see the curb when parking, and significantly reduce the blind spot areas over each shoulder. Every professional driver uses these mirrors effectively. I use my taillights as well as my front running lights whenever driving in the city or on the highway, particularly when it is cloudy or overcast. The most common moving vehicle crash is the rear-end collision. Taillights draw attention to any vehicle.

When there is a vehicle tailgating me, I use my four way flashers to warn the offending driver. The use of the flashers will also make other drivers aware of the dangers of wildlife or other unspecified hazards. They come in handy when making an unscheduled stop at a mid-block crosswalk, approaching flag persons at a construction speed zone or when in the company of emergency vehicles, such as police, fire and ambulance drivers.

I use my horn more often than the average driver. One tap of the horn will warn other drivers of an intention to move away from a parking space. Two taps of the horn warns others of a backing manoeuvre. The use of the horn is also effective in getting eye contact with other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. I use deer whistles whenever I go on a trip that involves high speed. Some drivers are critical of their usefulness. In my travels in the Interior of British Columbia over the past 25 years, I have had two run-ins with wildlife. I hit a suicidal deer and an equally suicidal coyote, both between Quesnel and Prince George. I did not have the deer whistles mounted in either case. I have never hit an animal when using the whistles, and I swear by them.

I do not make left turns if I can avoid them. Why cross the path of an oncoming vehicle? Three right turns are good enough for me. We all have our idiosyncrasies. What are yours?

Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers, and the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School, operating on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of British Columbia. stevedwallace@shaw.ca

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